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Life of SaintsStories

The Saint Who Preached a Sermon After Being Beheaded

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Here’s a short story of the Saint who preached a sermon after being beheaded. Saint Denis picked up his head and preached a sermon on repentance after being beheaded under the persecution of Catholics by Roman emperor Decius.

We know little of Saint Denis, but he was the Bishop of Paris during the 3rd century A.D. He was set off to Italy to convert the Gauls under Pope Fabian, making him one of the “apostles to the Gauls.” 

he settled with Saints Rusticus and Eleutherius, on the Île de la Cité; an island in the Seine river. Denis and his companions were renowned for their evangelism skills, so effective in converting people that pagan Roman leaders became alarmed over their loss of followers.

The local Roman governor ordered the trio’s arrest and imprisonment. They were eventually beheaded on the highest hill in Paris, known today as the Montmartre or “Mountain of Martyrs.”

Pious tradition holds that after his head was cut off, he picked it up and walked several miles from the hill’s summit, preaching a sermon on repentance the entire way. Where he finished his sermon and died was marked by a small shrine. The Shrine today is known as the Basilica of Saint Denis. It is also the burial place for the kings of France from the 10th to 18th centuries.

Saint Denis is the most famous cephalophore – literally “head-carrier” – depicted in hagiology. His unique martyrdom has become the subject of art throughout history, painted and depicted in marble. Along with Saints Rusticus and Eleutherius, his feast day is celebrated on October 9th.

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